Medicine & USMLE


Antibiotics / Antiparasitics
  1. Penicillin Overview
  2. Penicillinase-Sensitive vs. Penicillinase-Resistant Penicillins
  3. Anti-Pseudomonal Penicillins
  4. Cephalosporins Overview
  5. 1st Generation Cephalosporins
  6. 2nd Generation Cephalosporins
  7. 3rd Generation Cephalosporins
  8. 4th Generation Cephalosporins
  9. 5th Generation Cephalosporins
  10. Carbapenems
  11. Monobactams (Aztreonam)
  12. Vancomycin
  13. Aminoglycosides
  14. Tetracyclines
  15. Tigecycline
  16. Chloramphenicol
  17. Clindamycin
  18. Linezolid
  19. Macrolides
  20. Polymyxins
  21. Sulfonamides
  22. Dapsone
  23. Trimethoprim
  24. Fluoroquinolones
  25. Daptomycin
  26. Metronidazole
  27. Rifamycins (Rifampin, Rifabutin)
  28. Isoniazid
  29. Pyrazinamide
  30. Ethambutol
  31. Chloroquine


Carbapenems are a class of antibiotics used to treat a variety of bacterial infections. Like penicillins, these drugs are beta-lactam antibiotics; they are D-Ala-D-Ala analogs that bind to and block the bacterial transpeptidase, thereby preventing the cross-linking of the bacterial cell wall. Carbapenems are also resistant to penicillinase, a bacterial enzyme that can deactivate penicillins by cleaving the beta-lactam ring. Because of this, carbapenems can be used to treat bacterial infections when other beta-lactam antibiotics have failed. However, carbapenems also have major side effects. Patients can experience seizures due to the neurotoxic effects of these drugs. Other side effects of the carbapenems include rash and GI upset.

Key Points

  • Carbapenems
    • Drug Names (-penem endings)
      • Imipenem
      • Meropenem
      • Ertapenem
      • Doripenem
    • Mechanism
      • Beta-lactam antibiotics
        • Bind to penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs) to prevent peptidoglycan cross-linking in bacterial cell wall
      • Imipenem administered with cilastatin (inhibitor of renal dehydropeptidase I) to decrease inactivation of drug in renal tubules
        • Meropenem is stable against renal dehydropeptidase I
    • Clinical Use
      • Broad-spectrum coverage
        • Gram-positive cocci
        • Gram-negative rods
        • Anaerobes
      • Used for life-threatening infections after other drugs have failed
    • Adverse Effects
      • Seizures
        • Due to CNS toxicity
        • Meropenem has a lower risk of seizures
      • GI distress
      • Rash
    • Resistance
      • Not susceptible to beta-lactamase (penicillinase)
      • Carbapenemases (cleave carbapenems)
        • Produced by K. pneumoniae, E. coli, and E. aerogenes